Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" has been criticized for sounding too much like some of Madonna's biggest hits, and in the song's new seven-minute-plus video Gaga (consciously or not) pushes that idea a step further, portraying a literal Madonna figure: the mother of a new race.
In "Born This Way," Gaga delights in playing with the grotesque: The video features an abundance of icky birthing imagery (a good portion of the budget must have gone to procuring goo), and it stars dramatically tattooed Canadian model Rick Genest, one of the Top 10 Physically Modified People in the World. Gaga also cast Genest in the video that accompanied her "Scheiße" remix, which debuted at Thierry Mugler's January menswear show in Paris. Genest is actually an interesting choice for this video since he wasn't "born this way" but "opted to make himself this way" -- a twist on Gaga's trope.
"Welcome to G.O.A.T.," Gaga tweeted as the mini-movie debuted, explaining the initials stood for a government owned territory in space (and sadly wasn't a reference to the LL Cool J album "Greatest of All Time"). At the top of the video, Gaga speaks over orchestral bombast from the opening credits of Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo," explaining a bit of sci-fi mumbo jumbo that borrows from real academia ("mitosis," "multiverse"), but sounds more like the mockuscience of "Austin Powers" or "Barbarella." Per Gaga, on this alien planet, a mother gave birth to a new race of Utopian ideals, where there's no prejudice and only freedom. But a simultaneous spawning took place -- "The birth of evil" -- and she realized this duality would come in handy. How do you protect the good without something to protect it against?
At the 2:30 mark, the science lesson halts, "Born This Way" begins, and Gaga enthusiastically executes Gibson's spastic but appealing choreography, dressed alternately in a black-and-white bikini and a black-and-white tux with her face painted to match Genest's skull tattoos. One of the singer's signature moves is a seductive crotch-grab, perhaps to remind viewers where her birth canal is located. (Thanks to all of the graphic, kaleidoscopic birthing imagery, we hadn't forgotten.)
The clip, which premiered this morning at 11 a.m. ET, was written by Gaga and directed by Nick Knight, a noted British fashion photographer who has only helmed one music video prior to "Born This Way": Björk's "Pagan Poetry," off her 2001 disc "Vespertine," which was banned from MTV for nudity. The fact that Knight worked with Björk will intrigue those who see glimmers of the Icelandic singer's longtime companion Matthew Barney's work in "Born This Way." (It's doubtful Gaga isn't familiar with Barney's famous "Cremaster" Cycle).
Ultimately, the video's aesthetic is darker than we'd expected since Gaga has repeatedly described "Born This Way" as a new gay anthem, a song celebrating difference and individuality. The only color in the clip comes during the sci-fi sequences, when alien Gaga rotates in a not very subtle bright pink triangle. And like the bland performance of "Born This Way" at the Grammys, the video isn't actually shocking -- it seems low-key by Gaga's extravagant standards. Before the clip arrived, "Born This Way" sounded like a club anthem, the perfect soundtrack for a thumping gay pride parade float. Gaga has injected that revelry with something far darker and more grimy, which brings it more in line with the rest of her videography -- even birth must be a death in Lady Gaga's confusing but creative world.
- Lady Gaga